When they announced the Mate 30 Pro last year, Huawei also announced the third generation of their truly wireless earbuds, the FreeBuds 3. Unlike previous generations, the FreeBuds 3 are the world’s first to include Active Noise-Cancellation (ANC) in an open-fit design.
As well as ANC, Huawei has used their Kirin A1 processor which includes support for Bluetooth 5.1, and helps to maintain a stable connection and remove interference. The Kirin A1 also maintains something called Isochronous dual channel connection, which appears to be the sync between earbuds to ensure they’re playing the same audio, in-sync.
The earbuds are priced at AUD$299 and come in either Carbon Black or Ceramic White colour options from a range of retailers – and there’s a limited edition red version available too.
I’m in a constant search for new earbuds, I’ve become attached to the open-ear design Huawei, offer on the FreeBuds 3. I’ve been using the earbuds for a while now and here’s my thoughts.
When it comes to design, the FreeBuds 3 are incredibly familiar, with more than a passing resemblance to Apple’s AirPods and, by extension, other totally wireless earbuds on the market.
The FreeBuds 3 are basically a stem with a fairly traditionally shaped earbud on top. The FreeBuds 3 are fairly light, weighing in at a mere 5 grams which means they’re unobtrusive and can sit in your ears for a fairly long time without becoming uncomfortable.
The buds themselves are touch sensitive with a double tap on the right playing music or skipping a track, while a double tap on the left gets you ANC disabled/enabled. The touch is mostly good, though you occasionally have to re-tap to get the Freebuds 3 to recognise a command.
You can change the double tap preferences, as well as tune Noise Cancelling and more in the Huawei AI Life app which also lets you update the FreeBuds. Surprisingly though the app is only available only for Android, with iOS users only able to experience the default bluetooth earbud functions.
The design of the FreeBuds 3 also differ from Apple Airpods in that they go with an open-ear design, so there’s no silicone tips which plug your ear canals. Instead they sit comfortably and securely in your ears – going for a run didn’t dislodge them, nor did particularly heavy sweaty workouts – though interestingly there’s no IP waterproofing on the buds.
The quality of connection is fantastic, there’s occasionally a ghost audio track for a brief moment before the Kirin A1 chip pulls the audio sync together perfectly. The pairing to devices is fast, simply open the case and pull out a bud and you’ll hear a chime as it pairs when you put the bud in your ears – they’re so fast to pair I’ve yet to have to wait for a connection.
Audio from the FreeBuds 3 is delivered through 14mm drivers with an additional bass tube included to add depth.
The overall quality of sound is surprisingly good. I mostly listen to podcasts, which all sounded great. Music was the more pleasant surprise, with great middle and high end, but the bass tube isn’t quite up to the task when it comes to the bottom end, though that doesn’t distract from the whole sound.
The call quality on the FreeBuds 3 was excellent with the few calls I made sounding clear, and the person on the other end also found the quality clear as well. The call audio is thanks to what Huawei call their ‘Aerodynamic Mic Duct’ design which can suppress wind noise up to 20km/h.
Active Noise Cancellation is decent, but not great. The best description would be subtle. The ANC is certainly there and dulls the sound in louder environments, but doesn’t completely remove it. You can adjust the level of Noise Cancelling in the AI Life app, though I couldn’t find any improvement after playing with the dial.
The buds sit in a battery charging case when not in use, the small buds themselves give you four hours of use before they need to go back into the case for a charge, with the case holding another 16 hours of charge for a total of 20 hours use.
The FreeBuds 3 definitely get 4 hours use, if not more.One of the only features missing from the FreeBuds 3 which I’ve enjoyed on other earbuds is the audio prompt as the battery drops closer to nothing. Other totally wireless earbuds give you a few audio prompts at usually when you have half an hour, 20 minutes and 10 minutes left before powering off.
The Freebuds 3 charging case does have a battery indicator LED in the top, and you can see the battery left in the Bluetooth settings of a connected device and in the AI Life app, but the experience isn’t as good as it could be, so I’d love to see Huawei add something more.
The case itself can be charged with either USB Type C, or by wireless charging. The convenience offered by including both options allows greater freedom and is very welcome.
Should you buy them?
I’m a fan. The Freebuds 3 are of decent enough sound quality that they will cover the range most people want from a wireless earbud. The Active Noise Cancelling could be better, but the superior call quality and comfort factor wearing the FreeBuds 3, even for long periods of time make up for this.
At $299 they’re not for everyone and if you can find a good deal on the FreeBuds 3 you’ll be sure to get a great experience for a decent price.